The 2020/21 national budget projections forecast another deficit for Botswana; this emerged at a Budget Pitso and launch of the Budget strategy paper by the Ministry of Finance & Economic Development in Gabcorone this week.
Deliberating on the strategy paper, experts from the Ministry said the 2020/21 budget points to a deficit, contrary to one of the NDP 11 fiscal objective of maintaining modest surpluses in the second half of the Plan period. When National Development Plan 11 was launched in 2017 it was revealed that the first three financial years would run at a contained budget deficit financed from both external and domestic capital market. This was reiterated by Minister of Finance Kenneth Matambo when delivering the 2019/20 Budget Speech in February his year. He said government would be eying a slight surplus going into 2020.
However discussions from the Budget Pitso as well as figures contained in the strategy paper reveal something completely different. Budget defict runs will spill over into the second half of NDP 11.The current 2019/2020 budget marks the end of the first half of the implementation of the National Development Plan (NDP) 11.
Since the beginning of the implementation of NDP 11 in 2017/2018, a cumulative budget deficit of P16.11 billion has been recorded. This according to authorities from the national treasury was largely due to a decline in projected mineral revenues against the rising recurrent commitments.
2020/21 EXPENDITURE WILL SUFFOCATE REVENUE STREAMS
In the upcoming financial year projected Total Revenues and Grants for 2020/2021 amounts to P59.1 billion, representing an increase of 1.5 percent, compared to P58.2 billion estimated in 2019/2020. The projected slow growth in total revenues is largely driven by the Mineral revenues, which is expected to account for 29.6 percent to the total revenue, followed by Customs and Excise revenues at 26 percent.
Ministry of Finance says compared to the NDP 11 projected figure of P62.1 billion, the forecast total revenue for 2020/2021 is well below the NDP 11 figure by 4.8 percent, reflecting to a large extent the downward revision in mineral revenues as a result of the anticipated investments at Debswana Cut 3 and Cut 9 projects which are aimed at extending the productive capacity of the two major Debswana mines. This follows the decision by Debswana Shareholders to finance the investments through dividends.
On the expenditure fronts total expenditure and net lending in 2020/2021 is projected at P66.1 billion, of which P54.1 billion is allocated for recurrent expenditure, while P12.0 billion is earmarked for development expenditure. The projected amount for the development expenditure is also below the projected NDP 11 figure of P16.9 billion by 29 percent. The downward revision in the development budget is a result of the growth in recurrent budget, following a 16.5 percent upward revision in order to cater for the projected increase in wages and salaries
OVER P6.9 BILLION DEFICIT PROJECTED
The projected figures depict a fiscal balance stand of P6.94 billion, which is 3.1 percent of GDP. Cumulatively, the deficit points to P10.86 billion during the second half of the Plan period, which is an addition to the P16.11 billion recorded in the first half of the Plan period. The anticipated budget deficit is expected to be financed through a combination of borrowing mainly domestic and drawing down on Government cash balances held at Bank of Botswana. The ministry says this however compromises fiscal sustainability in the long term, as well as the ability to meet short term obligations such as regular payment for imports of goods and services.
PREVAILING POTENTIAL HEADWINDS
Ministry of Finance and Developmental Planning has cautioned the nation of serious trouble that lies ahead should current macroeconomic and fiscal headwinds persist. The Macroeconomic space will continue receiving headblows from the China –US trade tension putting pressure on rough diamond sales global economic outlook. It is underscored in the Budget Strategy paper that weak diamond sales pose downside risks to mineral revenues, which remain low following the decision by Debswana to finance the Cut 3 and Cut 9 projects from the dividends.
Furthermore, risks to the revenue outlook take into account the continued weak market for rough diamonds which has affected sales through De Beers Global Sightholder Sales. The negative fiscal outlook is exacerbated by increased recurrent pressures arising from the need to cater for the recent salary adjustments as well as other expenditure pressures arising from investment in critical infrastructure such as those for water and electricity. This is expected to raise the recurrent budget in the years ahead, while at the same time, crowding out development spending necessary for growth.
Finance experts say the expected decline in revenues amidst rising expenditure pressures give rise to budget deficits, which in turn, need to be financed by either borrowing or drawing down on Government cash reserves; the latter which has experienced significant deterioration over the past decade. “This has implications on the country’s ability to sustain and cushion the economy against any future external shocks, debt levels, as well as, to meet its import obligations and credit worthiness”
SUBDUED DIAMOND MARKET: HIGH RISK THREAT
Rough diamonds sales fell by well over 50 percent during the sixth De Beers Global Sightholder sales cycle, following a 16 percent drop in the second quarter of 2019. The decline in diamond sales has already started to weigh down on output, as Debswana adjusted mining production downwards during the second quarter of the year in line with the weaker demand for rough diamonds.
Production decreased by nine (9) per cent to 5.7 million carats during the second quarter of the year. This was also exacerbated by a decrease in production by 23 percent at Orapa to 2.5 million carats, following a planned plant shut down. “Should the situation persists, it may pose further risks to the domestic revenue outlook, as it would affect the growth in mining value added and a spill over to other sectors that depend on mining activities such as manufacturing and finance business services, which include diamond cutting and polishing as well as sorting and valuation” writes Ministry of Finance on the Strategy paper.
DIVERSIFICATION OF NATIONAL REVENUE PROFILE KEY
The 2020/21 Budget Strategy paper recommends that appropriate measures such as diversifying the current revenue profile be put in place with a view to cushioning against any future pressures on volatile mineral and customs & excise revenue streams. “This calls for the need to adhere to Government’s fiscal rule of restricting further growth in the recurrent expenditure in order to create room for the subdued development budget, in particular, by allowing for spending on high return projects, which can create employment opportunities”
On the emphasis the paper underscores that there is need to restore the fiscal position of the country, as part of the maintenance of macroeconomic stability. Ministry of Finance says Successive budget deficits experienced since the commencement of NDP 11 have placed the country on an unsustainable fiscal trajectory, which needs to be seriously addressed in the second half of NDP 11. “Going forward, measures will need to be taken to restore fiscal sustainability, as part of the suite of strategies to maintain macroeconomic stability necessary for growth and employment creation.
New details about a suspected Motswana poacher arrested in Namibian and his accomplice who is on the run were revealed when the suspect appeared in court this week.
The Motswana Citizen who was shot and wounded by Namibia’s anti poaching unit is facing criminal charges under criminal case number (CR NO 10/06/2022) which was registered at the Divundu Police Station in the Mukwe constituency of the Kavango East Region on 10 June 2022.
It is alleged that a patrol team laid an ambush after discovering a giraffe’s fresh carcass in a snare wire and hanging biltong. According to the Charge Sheet, the suspect Djeke Dihutu, aged 40 years, is charged with contravening and transgressions of Nature Conservation Ordinance andcontravening Immigration Act 07 in Mahango Wildlife Core Area, Bwabwata National Park. Dihutu’s first court appearance was on the 17th of June 2022, Rundu and it was postponed to the 07 July 2022. He is currently hospitalized in hospital under Police Guards.
Commenting on this latest development, the Namibian Lives Matter Movement National Chairperson Sinvula Mudabeti applauded the Namibian Anti Poaching Unit for its compliance with what it called the universal instrument on the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials adopted by the United Nations General Assembly resolution 34/169.
“We are aware that the duties of the police carry a great deal of risk, but our police has shown that they have a moral calling and obligation to protect even foreigners suspected of serious crimes on Namibian soil,” said Mudabeti.
According to him, whereas the Botswana Police Service, the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) and Directorate of Intelligence Service (DIS) have “very low moral ethics, integrity, accountability and honesty, the Namibian security agencies has shown very high levels of ethical leadership in the discharge of their duties even under duress.”
He said Namibian’s anti poaching unit has exercised one very important value, that is, the use of force only when it is reasonable and necessary. Mudabeti said this is in harmony with international best practices as enshrined in Article 2 of the UN instrument on law enforcement conduct, “In the performance of their duty, law enforcement officials shall respect and protect human dignity and maintain and uphold the human rights of all persons.
Our police have protected the life of a Botswana poacher and accorded him dignity, which is very foreign to our Botswana counterparts,” he said. He said article 3 of the same instrument above, calls for Law enforcement officials to use force only when strictly necessary and to the extent required for the performance of their duty.
“This provision emphasizes that the use of force by law enforcement officials should be exceptional; while it implies that law enforcement officials may be authorized to use force as is reasonably necessary under the circumstances for the prevention of crime or in effecting or assisting in the lawful arrest of suspected offenders, no force going beyond that was used by our Police,” he said.
Furthermore, Mudabeti said, whereas the universally accepted norm of the law of proportionality ordinarily permits the use of force by law enforcement, it is to be understood that such principles of proportionality in no case should be interpreted to authorize the use of force which is disproportionate to the legitimate objective to be achieved.
“Our police have used force proportional to the situation at hand. Great work indeed! Article 6 urges law enforcement officials to ensure the full protection of the health of persons in their custody and, in particular, shall take immediate action to secure medical attention whenever required,” he said.
Mudabeti said the Botswana poacher was immediately taken to hospital whereas the Nchindo brothers who were captured on Namibian soil, beaten, tortured and executed while pleading to be taken to the hospital we left to die.
“The Namibian Doctor gave evidence in court that Sinvula Munyeme’s lungs showed signs of life (during the autopsy) and that he could have survived if he was accorded immediate medical assistance in time but was left to die while BDF soldiers looked and possibly ignored his cry for help,” he said.
Mudabeti said unlike in Botswana where there are no clear separation of powers between the BDF, Botswana Police Service, Department of Intelligence and their Directorate of Public Prosecutions,” we have a system that allows for checks and balances and allows our people and foreigners who are found on the wrong side of the law to be accorded the right to a fair trial.”
He said Botswana citizens are treated with dignity when apprehended in Namibia and not assaulted, tortured and executed. “We are a civilized country that respects international law in dealing with non-Namibian criminals. The Namibian Police have not mistreated the Botswana poacher but have given him the benefit of the doubt by allowing due processes of the law to be followed,” he said.
He added that, “We are a peace loving nation that has not repaid Botswana by the evil that Botswana has done to Namibia by killing more than 37 innocent and unarmed Namibians by the trigger happy BDF.” He concluded that, “Our acts of mercy in arresting Botswana citizens should never be mistaken for cowardice.”
The government has reportedly taken a decision to terminate provision of pool housing and subsidy for civil servants as it attempts to trim the public service wage bill.
This emerges in a dispute that is currently before the Labour Office headquarters lodged by unions representing thousands of civil servants across the country. This publication understands that the decision to cease providing pool housing and rental subsidy for public officers is part of proposals that government put on the table during its negotiations with public service unions in order for it to adjust salaries.
A letter from Labour Office addressed to the Directorate of Public Service Management (DPSM) shows that the directorate is cited as the First Respondent. The letter is titled, “Dispute lodged: Cessation of provision of pool housing and subsidy for pubic officers.”
“This serves as a notification and requirement to a mediation hearing,” the letter informed DPSM. According to the letter, the Botswana Teachers Union (BTU), Botswana Sectors of Educators Trade Unions (BOSETU) Botswana Nurses Union (BONU) and Botswana Land Board &Local Authorities &Health workers Union (BLLAHW) who lodged the complaint are cited as the Applicant.
“Please come for mediation hearing. The hearing will be conducted by Mr Lebang. The hearing is scheduled for date/time 29th June 2022, 09: 00HOURS at Block 8 District Labour Office, Gaborone. Please bring all relevant documents,” reads the letter in part.
According to a document described as a proposal paper on the negotiations on salaries and other conditions of employment of public officers by the employer (government), the government did not only propose to stop providing accommodation to civil servants but also put a number of proposals on the table.
The proposal papers states that the negotiations (which have since been concluded) cover three government financial years; 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25. The government proposed an across the board salary adjustments as follows; 3% for the financial year 2022/23 effective 1st April 2022, across the board salary adjustment of 3.5% for the financial year 2023/24 effective 1st April 2023 subject to performance of the economy and across the board salary adjustment of 4% for the financial year 2024/25 effective 1st April 2024 subject to performance of the economy.
The government also proposed phasing out of retention and attractive (Scarce Skills) Allowance with a view to migration towards clean pay, renegotiate and set new timelines for all outstanding issues contained in the Collective Labour Agreement, executed by the employer and trade unions on the 27th August 2019, to ensure proper sequencing, alignment and proper implementation. The government also proposed to freeze public service recruitment for the 2022/23 financial year and withdraw the financial equivalence of P500 million attached to vacancies from Ministries, Department and Agencies (MDAs).
Another proposal included phasing out of commuted overtime allowance and payment of overtime in accordance with the law and review human resource policies during the financial year 2022/23, 2023/24 and 2024/25.
The government argued that its proposals were premised on affordability and sustainability adding that it was important to underscore that the review of salaries and conditions of service for public officers was taking place at a time when there were uncertainties both in the global and domestic economies.
“Furthermore there is need to ensure that any collective labour agreement that is concluded does not breach the fiscal deficit target of 4% of GDP,” the proposal paper stated. The proposal paper further indicated that beyond salary adjustments, the Government of Botswana is of the view that a more comprehensive consideration “must be taken on the issue of remuneration in the public service by embracing principles such as total rewards compensation which involves taking a fully comprehensive and holistic approach to how our organization compensates employees for the work.”
The proposal paper also noted that, “Clearly, the increase in salaries and changes to other conditions of service which have monetary consequences will further increase the proportion of the budget taken by salaries, allowances and other monetary based conditions of services.”
“The consequential effect would be a reduction of the portion that can be used for other recurrent budget needs (e.g. maintenance of assets, consumable supplies such as medicines and books) and for development projects,” the proposal states.
Opposition Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) National Executive Committee will in no time investigate charges party members worked with the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) membership to tip the scales in favour of the latter for Serowe Sub-council Chairmanship in exchange for deputy seat in a dramatic 11th hour gentleman’s deal, leaving the ruling party splinter under the political microscope.
In a spectacular Sub-council election membership last Thursday, the ruling BDP’s Lesedi Phuthego beat Atamelang Thaga with 14 votes to 12 for Serowe Sub-council Chairmanship coveted seat and subsequently the ruling party’s councilor Bernard Kenosi withdrew his candidacy in the final hour for the equally admired deputy chair paving the way for Solomon Dikgang of BPF, seen as long sealed ‘I scratch your back and you scratch mine’ gentleman’s agreement between the contenders.
Both parties entered the race with a tie of votes torn between 12 councillors each, translating for election race that will go down to the wire definitely. But that will not be the case as two BPF councilors shifted their allegiance to the ruling party during the first race for Chairmanship held in a secret ballot and no sooner was the election concluded then the ruling party answered back by withdrawing its candidacy for the deputy chair position to give BPF’s Dikgang the post on a silver platter unopposed.
BPF councilor Vuyo Notha confirmed the incident in an interview on Wednesday, insisting the party NEC was determined to “investigate the matter soon”. “During the race for the Chairmanship, two more BPF voted for alongside the ruling party membership. It was clear Dikgang voted alongside the BDP as immediately after the vote for Chairmanship was concluded, Kenosi withdraw his candidacy to render Dikgang unopposed as a payback,” Notha added.
As for the other vote, Makolo ward councilor will not be drawn for the identity preferring instead to say: “BPF NEC will convene all the councilors to investigate the matter soon and we will take from there.” Notha will also not be drawn to conclude may be the culprit councilors could have defected to the ruling party silently.
“If they are no longer part of us they should say so and a by-election be called,” was all he could say. As it stands now, the law forbids sitting Councilors and Parliamentarians from crossing the floor to another party as to do so will immediately invite for a new election as dictated by the law. Incumbent politicians will therefore dare not venture for the unknown with a by-election that could definitely cost their political life and certainly their full benefits.
Notha could also not be dragged to link the culprit councilors actions to BPF Serowe region Chairperson Tebo Thokweng who has silently defected to the ruling party and currently employed by the party businessman and former candidate for Serowe West Moemedi Dijeng as PRO for the highly anticipated cattle abattoir project in Serowe.
“As for Thokweng he has not resigned from the party but from the region’s chairmanship,” he said. WeekendPost investigations suggest Thokweng is the secret snipper behind the recruitment drive of the votes for the elections and is determined to tear the party dominance in Serowe and the neighbouring villages asunder including in Palapye going forward.
This publication’s investigations also show BPF’s Radisele and UDC’s Mokgware/Mogome councilors are under the radar of investigations for the votes-themselves associated with the workings and operations of Thokweng.
“NEC will definitely leave no stone unturned with their investigations to get into the bottom of the matter. Disciplinary actions will follow certainly,” Notha concluded, underscoring the need to toe the party line to set a good precedent. For the youthful councilor, the actions of his peers has set a wrong precedent which has to be dealt with seriously to deter future culprits.